It Doesn’t Count Until The Money Is In The Bank

About halfway through 2013, I was a few months into my new life as a legit, no-more-training-wheels, doing-it-on-my-own freelancer.

I was doing all the important things to get handled when you start out: putting off making sales calls, fiddling with the font colours on my website, and mooning around in coffee shops hoping that someone would introduce themselves as my fabulously wealthy new patron.

It was quite a terrible shock when such a windfall of cash and good fortune did not materialise.

And so I began the long and extremely uncomfortable process of learning to make my own fortunes, one tiny project at a time.

One of the most painful lessons (which I ran into several times before I got it) was that the deal is not done until the contract is signed and the money is in the bank.

Whether it happens because a client ghosts you, or because you realise they’re not a good fit, or because any one of the million things that can happen, sometimes the deal falls through.

There is nothing worse for the fledgling freelancer than dreaming about how you’re going to spend money you haven’t received yet (on, say, rent)…

Only to discover you’re not going to receive it at all.

But finally, I did learn. I developed a crucial discipline, which was to put off mentally spending the money until I could actually see the numbers in my bank account.

And as that discipline developed, I learned to shift my focus to the actions that would guarantee those deals kept coming in.

I stopped hoping for a miracle client. I stopped hoping someone was going to just hand me, a totally unproven rookie, a life-changing pile of money for a project that would make me weep with the sheer inspiration of it.

Instead, I started focusing on getting as many projects in the door as I could physically handle.

By the end of 2014 I was writing anything I could get paid for (and quite a bit I didn’t get paid for).

There were blog posts, email newsletters and autoresponders, white papers, sales page copy, social media content.

I wrote about nutrition, home security technology, software as a service, sustainable fashion, Spanish business visas, ecommerce website plugins.

There were projects on flipping real estate, designer wall art, CrossFit, self improvement, accounting, direct mail marketing, and the wedding industry.

It took two years for me to get my first book client. It took another five years to get to where I am now, with a consistent flow of work that I really enjoy.

My point here is not to blow you away with my progression from shockingly-starry-eyed newbie to fulfilled-sustainable-freelance-life.

My point is that if you want to be a writer, you’ve got to write.

If you want to make films, or write songs, or do any of those creative jobs that feel too good to be true, you have to do the damn thing, over and over and over.

I truly believe that one of the key reasons so many people stop pursuing these fields is that there is a loooong period of practice between starting out and ‘making it’.

There are literally years of honing your skills on projects that, while often interesting, aren’t exactly keeping you awake at night with excitement.

You don’t just luck into being a writer. You write into being a writer.

And the reason I think all those years of practice were actually critically important is that I wasn’t good enough back then to do what I’m doing now.

I needed to do a lot more reps, over a lot more time, to get strong enough to carry what I’m working on today. There’s no way I could have handled today’s workload — or the emotional investment necessary in these projects — back in 2013.

I would have been crushed within a week.

But over those years of practice I learned the technique and built the capacity to handle it. So now, those ‘miracle’ clients are signing on for significant amounts to work on stories that do give me chills with all their inspiring possibility.

So if you’re still hoping that the perfect project is waiting for you, and that your exciting, opportunity-laden future is approaching, believe me: it is, if you get ready for it.

But you’ve got to do enough reps, over enough time, that you’re strong enough to pull it towards you and to catch it when it arrives.

So write! Do the thing that you’re dreaming of. Do it over and over and over until you can do it backwards with your eyes closed and people would be fools not to hand you those opportunities.

Decide you’re going to do it, and be the best at it, and chase it down until the deal is done.